Missouri Gov. Parson names new judge to state Supreme Court, solidifying female majority

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Monday named Ginger K. Gooch to serve as the state’s next Supreme Court judge, solidifying a female majority on the state’s highest court.

Gooch, a judge on the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District in Springfield, was one of three judges nominated for the position by a seven-member commission last week. She will fill the vacancy left by Judge Patricia Breckenridge, who retired earlier this month.

“Her work ethic is unquestioned and unmatched,” Parson said during a press conference in Jefferson City on Monday. “She is a loving mother, a dedicated wife and a proud woman of faith. One thing that has become clear to me is Judge Gooch has a passion for service.”

Monday’s appointment marks the third time that Parson has named a judge to the state’s highest court. He did so in 2021 when he appointed Judge Robin Ransom. Last month, the Republican governor appointed Kelly C. Broniec, chief judge of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District in St. Louis, to fill the vacancy left by former Judge George W. Draper III.

The appointment means that a majority — four of the seven — of the judges on the Missouri Supreme Court will be women. Missouri is one of only 11 states that had a majority of women on its Supreme Court, Broniec said when she was appointed last month.

“The law is the law. There’s no gender to it. And whoever’s in those positions, it’s about enforcing and interpreting the law the way it’s written,” Parson said. “It really doesn’t matter whether there’s five men or five women on the Supreme Court.”

Gooch’s appointment does not require a confirmation vote by the Missouri General Assembly. While her swearing-in date has not yet been set, Missouri law requires her to be sworn in within 30 days of the appointment.

Gooch told reporters on Monday that she was honored to have the opportunity.

“I will honor my oath to uphold the laws and the Constitution and I will follow the law as written,” she said.

Parson’s two most recent appointments could shift the state Supreme Court more conservative. The court will only have two judges — Chief Justice Mary R. Russell and Judge Paul C. Wilson — who were appointed by a Democratic governor. And Ransom will be the only remaining Black judge.

Gooch, who lives in Springfield, earned a degree in English and philosophy, law and rhetoric from Stephens College in Columbia in 1997. She also received a law degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law in 2000.

Parson picked Gooch over two other nominees, Michael E. Gardner and John P. Torbitzky, two judges on the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, in St. Louis.

The Republican governor was widely expected within the Missouri Capitol to select someone from the southern part of the state. Parson, who owns a cattle farm in southwestern Bolivar, told reporters last month that he would love to pick someone from southwest Missouri.

Parson, however, told reporters on Monday that this was not why he picked Gooch.

“I’ll admit, being from southwest Missouri, I’m glad to see some representation from our part of the state on the bench,” he said. “But geography is not why Judge Gooch rose to the top. We chose her because she is the most qualified candidate. End of story.”

The seven member Appellate Judicial Commission selected the three nominees for the vacancy after conducting three hours of interviews and deliberating for more than two hours.